Leveraging Popular Culture
Travel is certainly about personal growth, enrichment, encountering and understanding new and exotic cultures. But travel is also entertainment. Google the phrase “movies and travel” and you will see just how important pop culture is to the travel industry. Think about all the trips to London inspired by Harry Potter or how many people visited the Louvre because of The Da Vinci Code. IMDB now has a link in many of their movie reviews that shows not only the film location of the movie but also other movies filmed in the same geographical setting. The movies inspire us in many ways, but there is no doubt that they inspire travel. Eat, pray, love … travel.
Travel professionals will do well to take the initiative and become students of popular culture. After all, whether we identify with popular culture personally or not, the vast majority of North Americans are quite taken with it. Marketing pro-actively means anticipating the conversation that popular culture is undertaking at the moment, and getting ahead of that curve can mean the difference between a client’s decision to visit New Zealand and a “stay-cation” cleaning the gutters.
Pop culture’s influence on the psyche of the population of North America would be hard to overstate. It’s not a bad idea to leverage a bit of one of the most powerful forces in the universe to your advantage. I’m speaking, of course, of Hollywood.
When Brad and Angelina move to New Orleans, the popular imagination finds a new reason to venture to the Big Easy. Hawaii has seen a much-needed boost in visits thanks to the happy accident of President’s Obama’s birthplace – and recent vacations. Dublin still benefits from James Joyce’s version of hyper-literate pop culture (written in 1914!) and you can take the boy out of Liverpool, but you cannot take Liverpool out of the Beatles. Do you have a client with a fondness for Civil War reenactments or Renaissance Fairs? If so, you have a wanna-be traveler on your hands.
There is more to pop culture than pop. The characters in films and movies involve a powerful, even unconscious, combination of archetype and romance. Is it possible to think of Scotland and not to think of Braveheart? Who can watch Out of Africa and not want to visit Kenya or Slumdog Millionaire and not want to experience the reality of the location? When you find a way into the psyche of your clients, you appeal to the emotional reasons for the decision to travel. Travel validates our existence, much as good movies, celebrity or literature does. It appeals to our most basic identification with exploration and discovery. When we tap into those emotions, travel agents move clients to take the leap, to act instead of watch, to be a participant in a wider world. Spend some time in each week picking up popular magazines and even, yes, watching some television, all in the name of business, all in the name of relating what you see to travel. Each morning TRO brings you the Travelgram to make you aware of what your clients are reading – act on the information. A big part of being a good marketer is being a good psychologist. Getting ahead of your clients means knowing what motivates them to act.
Be a part of the conversation of popular culture and you will almost certainly be better attuned to a marketing mindset.